3 October 2010

Who ya gonna call?

Probably like many other people in Somerton, I am awaiting the publication of the External Auditor's 'Report in the Public Interest' with growing impatience. It's now been over a year since I bundled up the documents that were available to me at that time and sent them to the External Auditor, where their receipt was greeted with a measured expression of concern.

At the same time I sent a duplicate copy of the documents to the Monitoring Officer at South Somerset District Council, Mr Ian Clarke, whose response was to say that the documents "contain some disturbing comments" then ................ silence. I never heard from Mr Clarke again and I did wonder if Somerton's problems might not be commonplace at SSDC.

In order to spread the information as widely as possible (in case some unfortunate accident should befall me) I also sent a copy of the External Auditor's documents to Mr David Heath, who is my Member of Parliament. I hoped that Mr Heath might take an interest in the issues that I raised as I understood that the Parliamentary Ombudsman might have some jurisdiction in the matter. Mr Heath's reply informed me that the Parliamentary Ombudsman had no jurisdiction as ".......... the relevant investigating authority is the Local Government Ombudsman."

Events rather overtook me last year and I only recently got around to considering Mr Heath's letter, influenced in large measure by the ConDems continuing efforts to dismantle all of the regulatory bodies that I had contacted or thought of contacting. So last week I gave the Local Government Ombudsman's Office a call to find out how I could present the documentation on the old Somerton Town Council to them. And I was in for a bit of a shock.

It seems that my MP, Mr David Heath, doesn't know who regulates Parish and Town Councils because, as the Local Government Ombudsman's Office explained to me, it isn't them. So I'm left with a bit of a problem, as is anyone else who might want to bring their parish or town council to heel. Where do you go with your concerns?

I was discussing this issue with a friend who went on to make a rather interesting and very worrying observation. They wondered if Eric Pickles, the self-styled 'scourge of quangos' shared the same misapprehension about the Local Government Ombudsman as does my MP. Is Mr Pickles busily dismantling the regulatory framework because he believes, as Mr Heath does, that the Local Government Ombudsman is, to quote Mr Heath "the relevant investigating authority"? Because, if this is the case then clearly Mr Pickles is as uninformed as is Mr Heath and we are getting into seriously deep water.

Soon there will be no Standards Board for England and no Audit Commission. At the same time, Mr Heath's Lib-Dem colleague, Mr Norman Lamb, is campaigning to stop electors taking complaints to the External Auditor. This makes me wonder if, God forbid, I were to face the same situation again, who would I call? Ghostbusters?

Till next time, may your MP know what they are talking about.